Definition

Whiplash is a soft tissue neck injury that can include:

    
  • Spraining the neck ligaments
  • Straining the neck muscles
  • Injury to cervical discs
  • Possible nerve injury
  • Process Leading to Whiplash

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    Causes

    Whiplash can occur with any sudden, violent, backward jerk of the head or neck.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of whiplash include:

        
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sporting events that include full contact
  • Falls
  • Assaults
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms often develop in the hours after the injury although they can also develop in the days after the injury.

    Symptoms may include:

        
  • Stiff neck
  • Neck pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Decreased range of neck motion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headache
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling extending down an arm
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Most whiplash injuries do not show up on imaging tests. Your doctor may order some tests to make sure that no other injuries have occurred.

    Neck images may be taken to look for further damage. Images may be taken with:

        
  • Neck x-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • CT myelogram
  • An electromyogram may also be done to test for nerve damage.

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:

        
  • Reducing discomfort with ice and/or heat therapy
  • Taking over-the-counter and prescription medications to reduce pain
  • Moving as you are able to reduce stiffness
  • Physical therapy and exercises
  • Joint manipulation of the spine done by a chiropractor or other trained provider
  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines for preventing whiplash. It often occurs due to an unexpected event.